New Delhi, India
November 2, 2009
Indigo is, I learn later, housed in a refurbished and restored turn of the century colonial bungalow. Since we arrive at night and are ravenous, we aren’t really interested in the architecture of the place. We hurry in, to a tastefully decorated restaurant with walls painted in cream textured finishes—one wall at the far end is a deep, vivid indigo; and there are large abstract paintings, nearly all incorporating the restaurant’s signature colour. The tables and chairs are all straight lines, uncluttered and unobtrusive in colour, with muted lighting and one fat, squat candle on each table.
The maître d’ tells us that a table will be available—but, he adds apologetically—we will need to vacate by 10, which is when it’ll be needed for a reservation. It’s 8 now, and we’re hungry as can be. Of course we’ll be gone by 10.
So we’re led to a table, water is poured into our glasses, and menus are handed over. There’s a range (wide but not cumbersomely so) of soups, appetisers, entrées, desserts, etc, as well as a page listing the day’s specials. Nearly all the dishes are primarily Western, but with a hint of the East in them. The dish I (and my friend) settle for, for instance, is panfried trout with toasted almonds and basil poha. Poha, for the uninitiated, is puffed rice, typically cooked in India by being lightly fried along with finely chopped onions, potatoes and spices. My friend’s husband is inclined to be less adventurous, and orders tenderloin.
With that, we order drinks—my friend and I, again thinking along the same lines (yes, we seem to share tastes) order a frozen fresh lime. This comes in a whisky glass, a gloriously fresh concoction of finely shaved ice with limejuice and syrup. It’s so perfect, and the two of us sing its praises so much that my friend’s husband—who had ordered a grappa, which he downs swiftly, orders a frozen fresh lime for himself. Later in the meal, at the recommendation of our waiter, he orders a kiwi frozen fresh lime (which contains, in addition to the regular ingredients, kiwi pulp). Not as good, is the verdict.
While we’re waiting for our food, a basket full of warm bread rolls and bread sticks is placed on the table along with a tiny dish of chilled curls of herb butter. We dig in, and I can safely assert that the onion rolls—with fried onions baked into the bread—are among the best breads I’ve ever had.
Our food arrives about 15 minutes later, all three plates placed almost simultaneously. The tenderloin looks juicy as CB cuts into it, but not all of the accompaniments are to his liking. On the side, for instance, is a large portion of what looks at first glance like sautéed potatoes but turns out to pumpkin, which he doesn’t care for (neither do I, actually: I’m glad that didn’t come with my order).
The panfried trout we’ve ordered is Manali trout, deliciously fresh and flavoursome, the skin crisp and perfect. It’s a large fillet, topped with a generous helping of golden slivers of almond. On the side is a portion of pale green basil poha: it’s been cooked with tiny cubed potatoes, but with the addition of what tastes like fresh pesto. Very unusual, and very nice! There are also a few thin slices of green tomato, rolled in semolina and deep fried, nothing exceptional.
Considering how hungry we’d been when we arrived, the bread (replenished midway through our meal) and just the single entrée is filling enough to make us all skip dessert. CB calls for the bill. I don’t get to even have a look at it—he and his wife refuse to let me pay, but I’m guessing the average cost per person will have worked out to a minimum of Rs 1,000, maybe closer to Rs 1,200. This is an expensive place.
But well worth it. The ambience is comfortable yet stylish; the staff is efficient and friendly; and the food is superb. Indigo gets my vote.
From journal India on the Fly: On Book Tour